Russ Gosselin is the founder and executive director of Elevate Lives. He is also a husband and father. Elevate Lives equips and mobilizes good-hearted people in Springfield, Missouri to come alongside those living in low-income neighborhoods, helping them to thrive in every aspect of their lives. When you learn about the work of Elevate Lives you’ll notice that their serious mission is accompanied by fun and celebration, the kind that helps people build relationships. Russ sees this perspective as key to being a good dad.
Russ and Sharon, his wife of nearly 35 years, are the parents of two grown children, Joseph, 30, and Janell, 27. When it comes to laughter, lecture, and love, Russ describes himself as an “80/20 kind of guy,” with a strong focus on squeezing every ounce out of life (80%), reserving only a small portion (20%) for serious moments of possible “lecture.” He claims, “I couldn’t be perfect, so I decided to be loving and fun.”
When his children were young, Russ frequently introduced love and laughter into their night time routine. Kneeling beside their bed he talked to them softly about how important it was for them to be quiet and fall asleep while, at the same time, he surreptitiously tickled them under the covers. The children loved it, but Russ admits their uncontrolled laughter sometimes caused Sharon to call, “Gosselin, what are you up to?” from the adjoining room.
When things weren’t going well, i.e., when a lecture or some other kind of serious discussion was needed, Russ often invited his kids to join him in the truck. Together they would make a quick trip to a fast food place, because—as Russ puts it, “Ice cream fixes a lot of things.” In a more serious vein, Russ noted, that in addition to planned “dates” with his children, spontaneous trips to Chipotle with his daughter were often the foundation for more serious discussions.
“We had an agreement,” he said. “I buy the food and you talk.” It worked and it stuck. Although Janell is grown, married and gone from home, she recently called her dad from Georgia and told him a new Chipotle had just opened in Augusta.
“Dad,” she said. “Let’s both go to Chipotle at the same time—you there and me here—and we’ll FaceTime each other.”
Not a bad idea for a dad and kid who want to stay connected, even when they’re miles apart.